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10 Reasons to NOT Start Your Own Firm

By William Peacock, Esq. | Last updated on

Did we convince you to hang out a shingle? Before you design your letterhead, consider the flip side: 10 reasons not to start your own firm.

10. Billing

"We didn't win - I'm not paying." Not only do you have to handle accounts, billing, and track incoming and outgoing funds, but when clients try to stiff you, you have to collect debts without compromising the case.

9. Administrative minutiae

"A hundred hours this week and you're barely breaking even?" Yep. That's exactly what it'll be like for a while. You have to handle accounting, reception, scheduling, and everything else that support staff usually would - at least until you hire support staff.

8. Experience? What's that?

"Oh crap, what do I do?" This will be your mantra for a while - especially if you go solo straight out of school. In a firm, you have experienced attorneys to bounce ideas off of. When you're solo - you're solo. Find a mentor, quick.

7. The hours

"You're going in on a Saturday?" Yep. Probably Sunday too. During the startup phase, you'll need to put in more hours than there are in a week. Once you're up and running, work will ebb and flow - from 100 hour weeks to 30 hour weeks. (Spare time? Try law-blogging.)

6. Poverty, debt, pain

"I didn't go to law school thinking I'd be on food stamps." Yep, it happens. Take your limited income for the first few months. Subtract a third for overhead and a third for taxes, plus any student loan payments, and you'll have about 15 cents to live on.  

5. Risk

"No nuts, no glory," Young Jeezy said. Real talk, Mr. Jeezy, but if you have a spouse and children, consider whether the risk is worth the reward. Running a solo firm is neither for the meek, nor those who can't survive passing periods of poverty.   

4. Schedule inflexibility

"You'll set your own schedule." Hah. Your checkbook sets the schedule. Remember our optimistic tone in "10 Reasons to Start Your Own Firm"? We weren't lying, but if you have no one to cover cases, dipping away for a vacation is going to be difficult - even if billables are booming.

3. Startup cost

"All you need is a laptop and a printer." That's partially true. What about malpractice insurance? Phone bill? Legal research? Accounting software?

2. Difficult clients

"My cousin is a lawyer, and he said ..." Whether the client fights the bills, micro-manages, or emails you 37 times per day, some clients are simply a pain. If you're on the eve of trial, you may just have to deal with them.

1. Malpractice lawsuits

"It happens to the best of us." The best and the worst, in fact. In the same vein of difficult clients are the litigious clients. Sure, you didn't actually commit malpractice, but the client is going to think that when his case flops. That angry client might sue, complain to the bar, or make your life a living hell. You get the billables and the blame.

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